The 2018 BC Summer Games was the first of its kind to host all-Indigenous teams after partnering with the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council, which saw some of the zone’s teams in specific and/or traditional sports such as box lacrosse.
Other sports included canoeing/kayaking and basketball, where the North-West (Zone 7) team was made up of the Indigenous people of Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert.
It’s a cool concept that I believe should be explored further as it promotes and encourages young athletes from First Nations communities to pursue and follow that path, maybe just a little bit easier to fulfil.
Fans of lacrosse might already know that the Iroquois Confederacy have their own representation in the Federation of International Lacrosse since 2003. They are eligible to play in the World Championships in both field and box lacrosse apart from Canada and the United States.
The indoor team has been very successful, winning four silver medals in the World Indoor Lacrosse League championship. All six of their defeats (including the finals) have been all against Canada. The field lacrosse team has had less success, their highest placing being third in 2014 and 2018.
The First Nations Lacrosse Association is the only indigenous peoples’ national governing body sanctioned by a sport’s international body.
It has allowed the original creators of the sport to reclaim the sport.
According to an article published by Maclean’s Magazine earlier this year, the executive director of the BC Lacrosse Association Rochelle Winterton said “you used to beg kids to come,” but in 2018 around 60 indigenous people tried out for the province’s team.
With superstar brothers, Lyle and Miles Thompson (and their two other brothers who play professionally) representing the Iroquois Nation in both outdoor and indoor codes and also dominating the National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse scoreboards, it’s almost a certainty that a new generation of First Nations participation will happen.
However, Aboriginal lacrosse players in B.C. would only be eligible to represent Canada and obviously not the Iroquois Nation and Indigenous athletes have been criminally underrepresented in Canadian professional sports.
Outside of traditional games, First Nations people are starting to make strides in other sports.
Rugby player Phil Mack, a member of the Toquaht First Nation, created the First Nations Thunder rugby team on Vancouver Island in 2014 to promote rugby and identify top Aboriginal players to compete for Canada. It’s too early to see if the program will have an impact on Indigenous sports or in rugby, but it has paved the way for similar programs in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan.